Spencer Knight made 33 saves to win his NHL debut as the Florida Panthers pummeled the Columbus Blue Jackets by a 5-1 count to wrap up what turned out by a lopsided season series between the two teams.
Knight, who turned 20 on Monday, became the first goaltender born in the aughts to play an NHL game. He became the first Panthers goaltender to record a win in their NHL debut, and he is also the youngest goalie to earn a victory for the team in franchise history
Offensively, the Panthers took to the air to rev up the offense, with newcomer Sam Bennett swatting in a pair of rebounds, with the assists on both goals going to Jonathan Huberdeau and Anthony Duclair, and Ryan Lomberg put the Cats up by three with a beautiful deflection of a Frank Vatrano pass that floated over a pair of Blue Jackets defensemen. The secondary helper on Lomberg’s second of the season went to Markus Nutivaara.
Aleksander Barkov and Huberdeau tallied in more conventional fashion to open and close the scoring.
After taking a short pass at the blue line from Mason Marchement, Nikita Gusev threaded the needle to Barkov with a pretty cross and the captain solved Joonas Korpisalo with a hard wrist shot from the right circle, that might have just caught the blade of Dean Kukan’s stick on its way to the back of the net, 6:52 into the opening period. Bennett would get his first of the night jut 14 seconds later.
Duclair picked up his third assist, tying a caree-high, when he reeled in an stretch pass from Radko Gudas at the Columbus line, stickhandled his way into the zone and handed off on the backhand to Huberdeau, who whipped a wrister by Korpisalo with 3:22 to go in the middle frame.
The Blue Jackets only goal came on a power play with 3:44 to go in the first. Cam Atkinson deflected Oliver Bjorkstrand’s pass off Jack Roslovic’s skates and Roslovic’s was able to pop the puck by Knight from in close.
Roslovic would quickly beat Knight again, but Stefan Matteau was offsides when he entered the zone on a 2-on-1 break with Patrik Laine and the goal was waived off, negating what would have been a 2-2 tie, The Cats would go on to pump in three in the second to put the game away early.
The Panthers picked up their 30th win of the campaign, and with Carolina defeating Tampa Bay, opened up a three-point lead on the Lightning for second place in the Central Division. Florida remains tied with the Hurricanes at 65 points, but the Jerks still have a pair of games in hand. The recently assembled second line of Bennett, Huberdeau and Duclair ravaged the Blue Jackets, producing eight points, nine shots on goal, and a combined +9 rating. Ten different Panthers recorded at least one point as the team finished its season series against Columbus having not lost a tilt in regulation (7-0-1). A tough task awaits the surging Cats, as the final two regular season games against Carolina come next on the schedule.
Cuffs & Buttons
- The Panthers have earned at least a point in each of their past five games (4-0-1). With the victory, the Cats extended their winning streak on home ice to seven games, their longest since winning eight games in a row at BB&T Center February 22 to March 10, 2018.
- Sam Bennett, who led the team with six hits, has recorded at least one point in each of his first three games since being acquired from the Calgary Flames on deadline day. Bennett is the third Panthers player this season (Patric Hornqvist and Carter Verhaeghe) and the 12th in franchise history to record at least a point in each of his first three games with the club.
- Jonathan Huberdeau extended his point streak to five games (2G/5A). It was his fifth game this season with at least three points.
- Anthony Duclair has recorded at least a point in each of his past seven games played, amassing three goals 10 points over that span. Duclair’s helper on Bennett’s second goal was his 100th NHL assist.
- Ryan Lomberg scored for the first time since March 11th and registered his third fighting major of the season against Columbus forward Kole Sherwood.
- Spencer Knight’s 33 saves are tied for third-most by a goaltender in their NHL debut this season.
- Joonas Korpisalo stopped 28 of 33 for the Blue Jackets.
- Assists allowed Frank Vatrano and Radko Gudas to extend their respective point streaks to three games.
- For more on season finale, pay a visit to The Cannon. See you in 2021-22, Blue Jackets.